The One Skill You Must Have to Succeed as a Freelancer

If I always did what I was qualified to do, I’d be pushing a broom. -Naval Ravikant

Lately I’ve started thinking about all the jobs I’ve had in my life and I’ve had a lot.

I’ve worked for big companies, medium-size companies, small companies and startups. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that all those jobs had one thing in common. I wasn’t 100% qualified for any of them the day I got hired. And in some cases, I was clueless. I’m not really sure how I even got most jobs. I guess I was good at faking it until I made it.

Of course, I also suffered from the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. I was sure at any moment my employer would discover just how little I knew and fire me. That fear drove me to develop one handy skill over the years: the ability to learn fast. And as the internet evolved, that’s become easier and easier to do.

With all the information and online courses available today, you can learn just about anything quickly. Google a topic and read the first five articles that come up and you’ll be able to intelligently converse on the subject. Read another five and you’ll probably be able to write your own short article explaining it to someone who knows nothing about it. That’s not only amazing, but it’s an essential requirement for survival today.

The skill you must have to succeed as a freelancer is just-in-time expertise. It’s different from just-in-time learning. What’s the difference? Just-in-time learning is reading the five articles. Just-in-time expertise is writing the article.

To succeed as a freelancer, you not only need to know things you need to be able to prove it. And one of the best ways to prove it is with a portfolio. With a portfolio, you can demonstrate to a potential client that you can solve their problem because you’ve solved similar problems for other clients and you have portfolio piece to prove it.

The problem comes when you don’t have the right item in your portfolio. So, what do you do? You create it. Right here. Right now.

I once had a client ask me if I knew about virtual networking. I said, “you betcha,” even though I didn’t. I told them I had written an article on the subject and that it might take me awhile to find it but I’d send it to them by the end of the day. You’ll never guess how I spent the rest of my day. That’s just-in-time expertise.

It’s no big deal. You’ve done it a hundred times. If someone asks you if you can handle a project, you say yes, and then spend a little time creating some proof. That’s all there is to it. It’s called just-it-time expertise and you’ll need it to succeed as a freelancer today.

Until next time.

Originally published at Too Young To Retire.